Saturday, March 24, 2018

News Briefs

Displaying 1 - 10 of 2915
  • Friday, Mar. 23, 2018
Weather Channel sold to Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios
In this May 8, 2009, file photo, Byron Allen arrives for an event in Los Angeles. Allen's Entertainment Studios, Inc., one of the largest independent producers and distributors of film and television, on Thursday, March 22, 2018, announced its acquisition of the Weather Group, parent company of The Weather Channel television network and LOCAL NOW streaming service. (AP Photo/Dan Steinberg, File)

The Weather Channel is under new ownership.

Entertainment Studios Inc., an independent movie and TV producer and distributor, said Thursday it's acquired the channel's parent company, Weather Group.

Byron Allen, founder and owner of Entertainment Studios, bought the Weather Group from the Blackstone Group, Bain Capital and Comcast-NBCUniversal, Entertainment Studios said.

"The Weather Channel is a phenomenal asset," Allen said in an interview. "It is the No. 1 weather news network in America. It's a network that's very important, that provides us information to protect our families and our lives."

The purchase price for the channel and Local Now, a news streaming service, reportedly was $300 million.  Entertainment Studios declined to confirm the figure.

Bain, Blackstone and Comcast-NBCUniversal bought the Weather Channel Cos. from Landmark Communications in 2008 for a reported $3.5 billion. The new owners sold digital assets including the website for a reported $2 billion-plus to IBM in 2015.

Allen called the Weather Channel "an American treasure" that he intends to expand.

"We're just honored to be able to own and take it to the next level," he said. "They're already doing great, we're just going to invest more to position it for greater success" domestically and internationally.

Meteorologist Jim Cantore is among the familiar faces at the basic cable channel that's available in more than 80 million North American homes.

In a statement, Weather Channel CEO Dave Shull said Allen's ownership will benefit its viewers, distributors and advertisers.

Entertainment Studios owns seven TV channels, including and Justice, which are distributed online and by pay-TV providers.

It also owns, a website devoted to African-American stories and issues.

Allen said the purchase of the Weather Group was completed Thursday morning through his company Allen Media LLC.

  • Thursday, Mar. 22, 2018
US, AT&T fire opening salvos as govt seeks to block merger
In this Oct. 24, 2016, file photo, the AT&T logo is positioned above one of its retail stores in New York. Opening arguments in the federal government’s case to block AT&T’s efforts to gobble up Time Warner have been postponed until Thursday, March 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

The government and AT&T exchanged opening salvos in a federal trial Thursday as the U.S. seeks to block the telephone giant from absorbing Time Warner, in a case that could shape how consumers get — and how much they pay for — streaming TV and movies.

The Trump Justice Department has sued to block the $85 billion deal, saying it would hurt competition and consumers would have to pay more to watch their favorite shows, whether on a TV screen, smartphone or tablet.

The combination of the wireless, broadband and satellite giant with Time Warner — home to the CNN, HBO and TBS networks as well as coveted sports programming — would harm competition and dampen innovation, Craig Conrath, the lead Justice Department attorney in the case, insisted in opening arguments.

"The evidence will show that this merger would hurt ... pay-TV consumers," Conrath said, noting they number some 90 million households in the U.S.

"Time Warner is a weapon for AT&T," he said. "Buying Time Warner would give AT&T a weapon to slow down innovation and protect its cash cow" of pay TV. AT&T owns DirecTV, which contributes a substantial percentage of its earnings.

AT&T's strategy of discounting DirecTV Now streaming service has helped it hold on to wireless customers, according to industry analysts.

But the companies' lead attorney in defending the merger, Daniel Petrocelli, countered that the government "cannot meet their heavy burden of proof" that deal would hurt competition in a rapidly shifting media landscape. "We're not trying to suppress or impede this transformation. ... This transformation is what makes this merger imperative," he said.

The government called as its first witness an executive of Cox Communications, which distributes content including Time Warner's through its cable TV network and opposes the merger. Suzanne Fenwick, who heads Cox's mergers and acquisitions business, testified that her company feared the merger would give unfair market power to competitor Time Warner's Turner, which would dictate steep terms for selling its programming, and a financial hit for Cox.

More people are using streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. Those companies and others such as Google, Hulu and Facebook "are running away with the industry," Petrocelli said — by offering pay TV at lower rates, selling subscriptions for on-demand programming and dominating advertising.

He rebuffed the idea that consumer prices would be pushed higher, accusing the government of relying on hypothetical economic models that don't square with the reality of the market. In fact, consumers could end up paying less after a merger, Petrocelli suggested.

As AT&T Inc. CEO Randall Stephenson and Jeffrey Bewkes, the CEO of Time Warner Inc. looked on in the packed courtroom, the opposing attorneys outlined their cases before U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in a landmark trial that could imprint future antitrust policy. In their arguments, the attorneys journeyed through the complex, twisty dynamics of the 21st century media and entertainment landscape, with opposing spins.

The density and importance of the issue means there will be several weeks of testimony from experts, competitors of the two companies and others.

If in the end Leon decides to block the deal, a chill over media dealmaking is likely. Big internet players like Amazon or Google could decide to keep building up their own content offerings rather than growing them by acquisitions. If the companies prevailed, on the other hand, that could spur a wave of similar deals as other distributors — like major cable, satellite and phone companies — bulk up with entertainment purchases to compete against rivals born on the internet.

A middle-ground compromise is also possible if AT&T loses. The company could agree to sell off some businesses or comply with other restrictions in order to win approval of the merger.

  • Thursday, Mar. 22, 2018
Film examines Dolores Huerta from jazz to "Si, Se Puede"
In this Jan. 16, 2018, file photo, Dolores Huerta participates in the "Dolores" panel during the PBS Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Dolores Huerta formed the first farmworkers union with Cesar Chavez, stood next to Sen. Robert Kennedy minutes before he was assassinated, inspired Barack Obama's 2008 "Yes We Can" presidential campaign slogan with her "Si, Se Puede" rallying cry and has continued her social activism as she approaches her 90th birthday.

Yet she remains unknown to most Americans.

Among Mexican-Americans, however, she's a civil-rights icon. She draws excitement at rallies for ethnic studies in Arizona, gatherings for women's rights in Albuquerque and even for a cameo appearance at this year's Academy Awards.

Now the social activist is the subject of "Dolores," a new PBS documentary from Independent Lens. "Dolores" is scheduled to air on most PBS stations on Tuesday.

As expected, the documentary covers Huerta's life as a United Farm Workers leader in California during the late 1960s. It examines her role in fighting against the use of toxic pesticides and for immigrant rights.

But the film also explores her challenges in raising 11 children and the resentment they held for being ignored. The documentary also looks at her love of jazz and her shattered dreams of becoming a dancer.

Director Peter Bratt said the project began after Huerta and guitarist Carlos Santana had a conversation until 3 a.m. during a trip to Hawaii years ago. Santana, a Miles Davis fan, discovered Huerta was a huge fan of bebop legend Charlie Parker.

"I even met Charlie Parker. That's my claim to fame," Huerta, 87, told The Associated Press. "There were a lot of things Carlos didn't know about me."

That's when Santana urged Huerta to take part in a documentary to tell her story, Bratt said. Santana is executive producer of "Dolores."

Using archival interviews from Huerta and Chavez, "Dolores" illustrates how Huerta moved from a married woman in a middle-class home to a union activist who gave up a comfortable life to join the fight for equality. When farmworkers or fellow activists would tell her something couldn't be done or the odds were against them, Huerta would reply, "Si, Se Puede."  That became the rallying cry for the farmworkers movement.

Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton and "La Bamba" director Luis Valdez all discuss how Huerta evolved from someone pushing a grape boycott to an activist who was  denounced by Teamsters, then-future President Ronald Reagan and, later, Fox News personalities like Bill O'Reilly.

But the film goes beyond Huerta's social justice activities throughout the years, showcasing the advocate at transformative moments in American history and highlighting her role in defining them.

For example, Huerta is standing next to Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles after his California presidential primary win in June 1968. "Dolores Huerta ... who is an old friend of mine," Kennedy tells the crowd. Huerta helped Kennedy win California's Mexican-American vote by helping orchestrate a then-unique door-to-door voter registration drive.

Minutes later, Kennedy is shot.

"It was very emotional to watch," Huerta said after viewing the documentary. "I had to see the film four times before I could get it all to sink in."

In 2012, Obama finally acknowledged Huerta for her role in the creation of his "Yes, We Can" slogan during his first presidential campaign.

"Dolores was very gracious when I told her that I had stolen her slogan," said Obama, who then presented her with the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. "Knowing her, I'm pleased she left me off easy because Dolores does not play."

But in spite of her contributions, Huerta has been written out of history — literally. The conservative-leaning Texas State Board of Education voted in 2010 to remove Huerta from third-grade standards over her affiliation with the Democratic Socialists of America organization.

That same year, then-Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill banning certain ethnic studies programs after Huerta told a Tucson school that Republicans hated Latinos.

Bratt said he believes the "Dolores" documentary is a way to save her legacy. "People have tried to erase her from history," Bratt said. "Hopefully, this film is the corrective."

  • Thursday, Mar. 22, 2018
NBC documentary looks at images that propelled civil rights
This undated photo shows Emmett Louis Till, a black 14-year-old Chicago boy, who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in 1955 after he allegedly whistled at a white woman in Mississippi. Photos of his tortured body propelled the civil rights effort and is the subject of an NBC documentary ""Hope & Fury," premiering Saturday. (AP Photo, File)

Gruesome images of a lynched Emmett Till were seared into the minds of many black Americans in 1955 and helped lead to the modern civil rights movement. But few whites knew of their existence at the time.

That reality is at the top of NBC's two-hour documentary, "Hope & Fury," about how images propelled the civil rights effort. The film premieres Saturday at 8 p.m. ET as the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King's assassination approaches.

Till was the 14-year-old black Chicago boy visiting relatives in Mississippi, killed after a white grocery store clerk claimed he treated her rudely. Decades later, she recanted her story. That was far too late to save Till from being bludgeoned, shot in the head and thrown into a river. Two men were acquitted of the crime, even though they later admitted to it.

Given a casket nailed shut, Till's mother ordered it open and Jet magazine took pictures of his horrible maimed head, beaten beyond recognition.

"For a mainstream, news audience, my guess is a large number of people knew his name, but didn't really know what happened, which is the best and highest calling for a documentary like this," said NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack. "Seeing these pictures underscores what happened, what really happened, why the murder of Emmett Till was such a shocking and important event in the civil rights movement."

There's no evidence that NBC ever showed the picture of Till's body until a "Today" show story on the anniversary of his death in 1985, the network said. NBC wasn't alone among the mainstream media.

"It was a different America," Lack said.

As if to make amends, the documentary shows the image of a murdered Till seven times. NBC compared Mamie Till's insistence that the brutal truth of what happened to her son be made visible to actions 2016 by the girlfriend of Philando Castile, who streamed the aftermath of his shooting by a police officer outside of St. Paul, Minnesota where he had been pulled over for a busted light.

Mamie Till went to Jet because, at the time, it was the top news source for black America, said MSNBC's Joy Reid, who participated in the documentary. "If you were a mother in Mamie Till's position, you wouldn't go to NBC or CBS or even The New York Times," she said.

The pictures "took the issue of lynching away from the grainy photographs of a body hanging in the woods," she said. The anniversary of Till's death was later chosen as the date of King's March on Washington, she noted.

"The civil rights movement never forgot Emmett Till," Reid said. "He was to that movement what Trayvon Martin was to Black Lives Matter, a symbol that remained incredibly potent."

NBC's documentary shows how King innately understood the power of images beamed by the still-infant medium of television. A peaceful march or sit-in could draw yawns from a general public, yet a march of well-dressed children set upon by police with dogs and fire hoses produced pictures that made many Americans recoil when they saw them on the evening news.

Repeatedly, King could count on racists to reveal themselves and provide the pictures he needed to give the movement momentum. Many demonstrations were planned before noon to give enough time for film to be delivered to New York to be shown on the network evening news.

Noted civil rights icon John Lewis is quoted in the documentary as saying, "without television, the civil rights movement would have been like a bird without wings." The movement changed television, too: evening news programs expanded from 15 minutes a day to half hour to keep up with the news.

Lack said he also hoped the documentary would give attention to some notable black journalists from the time. Two examples: Ernest Withers, who took the picture of a man who stood in the courtroom and pointed to Till's murderers during their trial, and L. Alex Wilson, who followed black students integrating a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, and continued walking despite being beaten by a crowd of angry whites.

The documentary was initially made for MSNBC but, midstream, Lack said he felt compelled to request a prime-time window on the network. Once common, documentaries are now such a rarity on network television that NBC said it hasn't aired a two-hour film like this since 2004.

It is being repeated on MSNBC Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.

  • Wednesday, Mar. 21, 2018
"A Sort of Family" Wins Grand Prize At Miami Film Festival

A Sort of Family (Una especia de familia), directed by Diego Lerman, won Best Film and the $30,000 Grand Prize that goes with it at Miami Dade College’s 2018 Miami Film Festival which wrapped this past Sunday (3/18).

Earning Best Director distinction was Mateo Gil for The Laws of Thermodynamics (Las leyes de la termodinamica).

There was a three-way tie for the Documentary Achievement Award among: When the Beat Drops, directed by jamal Sims; Amigo Skate helmed by Vanesa Wilkey-Escobar; and Liyana directed by Aaron Kopp and Amanda Kopp.

Here’s a rundown of winners:

: $30,000 GRAND PRIZE – A Sort of Family (Una especie de familia) (ARGENTINA, Campo Cine – Directed by Diego Lerman)

BEST DIRECTOR: $5,000 PRIZE– MATEO GIL for The Laws of Thermodynamics (Las leyes de la termodinámica) (SPAIN)

BEST PERFORMANCE: $5,000 PRIZE – Cesar Troncoso for Another Story of the World (Otra historia del mundo) (URUGUAY)

JURY: Ciro Guerra, Manuel Martín Cuenca, Ximena Caminos

: $10,000 PRIZE – Gladesmen: The Last of the Sawgrass Cowboys (USA, directed by David Abel)

: $10,000 PRIZE –  La familia (VENEZUELA/CHILE/NORWAY, La Pandilla Producciones, directed by Gustavo Rondón Córdova)
JURY: Leslie Cohen, Antonio Méndez Esparza, Angel Manuel Soto

: $10,000 PRIZE –  XAVIER LEGRAND for Custody (FRANCE)
Honorable Mention:  Ana Urushadze for Scary Mother (GEORGIA/ESTONIA)
JURY: Matthew Porterfield, Jane Schoettle, Rudi Goblen
When The Beat Drops (USA), directed by Jamal Sims
Amigo Skate, Cuba (USA) directed by Vanesa Wilkey-Escobar
Liyana (USA/Swaziland/Qatar), directed by Aaron Kopp and Amanda Kopp
$5,000 Prize –  Carry That Weight: A Rockumentary (USA), directed by Brian J. Leitten

THE LAST SUIT (ARGENTINA/SPAIN), directed by Pablo Solarz

MOTHER (SPAIN), directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen

THE DRIVER IS RED (USA) directed by Randall Christopher

: La familia (VENEZUELA/CHILE/NORWAY, La Pandilla Producciones, directed by Gustavo Rondón Córdova)


Best Narrative Film: P.R.A. NATION – Jorge L. Martinez F. (University of Miami)

Best Director: Robert Ramos  – RENE DE DIOS AND THE SOUTH BEACH SHARK CLUB (Miami Dade College)

Best Writing: Robert Ramos  – RENE DE DIOS AND THE SOUTH BEACH SHARK CLUB (Miami Dade College)

Best Actor: Jaydev Hemrajani – ZINDAGI (University of Miami)

Best Actress: Samantha Miller – CHERRY (University of Miami)

Best Technical Achievement: RENE DE DIOS AND THE SOUTH BEACH SHARK CLUB (Miami Dade College)

Cinemaslam Audience AwardOpposite Sex by Lidia Rosa Hernandez from Center of Cinematography, Arts, and Television

  • Wednesday, Mar. 21, 2018
Judd Apatow memorializes Garry Shandling in HBO documentary
In this Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, photo, Judd Apatow producer and director of the HBO documentary "The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling" pose for a portrait during the 2018 Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, Calif. The new film draws on 30 years of Shandling’s intimate diaries and notes. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)

Judd Apatow has decided to memorialize his friend and mentor Garry Shandling in an appropriate way.

Apatow made Shandling the subject of his four-hour HBO documentary called "The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling." Shandling, after all, masterminded a brand of phony docudrama with "The Larry Sanders Show."

The new film draws on 30 years of Shandling's intimate diaries and notes and includes interviews with James L. Brooks, Linda Doucett, David Duchovny, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jay Leno, Kevin Nealon, Conan O'Brien, Bob Saget, Sarah Silverman and Jeffrey Tambor.

The documentary airs in two parts on March 26 and March 27.

Apatow wrote for Shandling and considers his "Freaks and Geeks" a version of "The Larry Sanders Show," only set in high school.

  • Tuesday, Mar. 20, 2018
Twitter: "Black Panther" is most tweeted about movie ever
This file image released by Disney and Marvel Studios' shows Chadwick Boseman in a scene from "Black Panther." (Marvel Studios/Disney via AP, File)

The pop culture sensation "Black Panther" has set another record: most tweeted about movie ever.

Twitter said Tuesday that Ryan Coogler's box-office smash has been tweeted about more than 35 million times. That pushes it ahead of the previous record-holder, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." The most recent "Star Wars" installment, "The Last Jedi," ranks third.

Over the weekend, "Black Panther" became the first film since 2009's "Avatar" to top the box office in North America five straight weekends. It has grossed more than $607 million domestically and $1.2 billion worldwide. In the next week, it's expected to pass "The Avengers" as the highest grossing superhero film ever, not accounting for inflation.

Twitter said "Black Panther" had the most tweets in the U.S., followed by the United Kingdom and Thailand.

  • Tuesday, Mar. 20, 2018
"The Crown" producers say sorry to stars after pay dispute
In this Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017 file photo, actors Claire Foy, left, and Matt Smith pose for photographers on arrival at the premiere of the series 'The Crown, Season 2' in central London. (Photo by Grant Pollard/Invision/AP, File)

Producers of the Netflix drama "The Crown" apologized Tuesday to actors Claire Foy and Matt Smith over the revelation that Foy was paid less than her male co-star.

A producer disclosed last week that Foy, who starred as Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, was paid less than Smith, who played Prince Philip, because Smith was better known.

The gender pay gap has become a big issue in Hollywood after revelations that many female stars were paid less than their male counterparts.

Since news of "The Crown" pay gap broke, a petition has urged Smith to donate part of his salary to the Time's Up campaign, which is campaigning against sexism and sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry.

Production company Left Bank Pictures said the actors "are not aware of who gets what and cannot be held personally responsible for the pay of their colleagues."

The production company apologized that Foy and Smith "have found themselves at the center of a media storm this week through no fault of their own."

The company said it was "absolutely united with the fight for fair pay, free of gender bias" and was keen to speak to Time's Up.

"The Crown" traces Elizabeth's journey from princess to queen, beginning in the 1950s. Foy and Smith are being replaced by older performers in the next season.

  • Tuesday, Mar. 20, 2018
Chicano writer who vanished focus of new documentary
This Oct. 1970 photo released by Bob Krueger shows Oscar Zeta Acosta, left, and Hunter S. Thompson at the Hotel Jermone in Aspen, Colo., to discuss Thompson's campaign to become sheriff. (AP Photo/ Courtesy of Bob Krueger)

Oscar Zeta Acosta, a volatile Mexican-American writer who was the real-life inspiration for Hunter S. Thompson's Dr. Gonzo in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," is the focus of a new VOCES/PBS documentary.

"The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo" traces the life of the preacher-turned-lawyer-turned-writer who became a central figure in the Chicano Movement before disappearing without a trace in Mexico in 1974.

Using actors to recreate Acosta's own words and interviews from friends, the PBS documentary follows the evolution of a Baptist preacher in Panama while in the U.S. Air Force to "Robin Hood" lawyer who defended poor black tenants in Oakland, California, and radical Mexican-American activists in Los Angeles.

Along the way, the El Paso, Texas-born Acosta ventured to Aspen, Colorado, where he befriended Thompson and other white countercultural figures of the late 1960s. The hell-raising pair eventually traveled to Las Vegas on a drug-fueled trip that Thompson recreated in his 1972 novel, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

The journalist would portray Acosta as a 300-pound Samoan who couldn't get enough food, drugs and danger — a portrayal that angered Acosta because it ignored his Mexican-American identity.

Following a legal fight, Acosta gave the OK to publish Thompson's book in exchange for publishing two of his own memoirs, "The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo" and "The Revolt of the Cockroach People." Both became classics in Chicano literature.

Then, he disappeared.

Director Phillip Rodriguez said Acosta's colorful life made him a great subject. Unlike better-known Chicano activists like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, Rodriguez said everyone knew that Acosta was not a saint because of his public battles with addiction and mental illness.

"He was struggling with himself," Rodriguez said. "But he was a man of action and challenged the whole notion (of) what it means to be a Chicano hero."

Rodriguez said he opted to use actors to re-enact interviews and Acosta's writing since little archive footage exists.

In the documentary, actors portraying former activists spoke of Acosta using Bob Dylan lyrics in closing arguments, detailed how he brought drugs in the courtroom and talked about Acosta keeping the remains of his stillborn daughter in a jar to cope with her death.

"He was really crazy," Raul Ruiz, 70, the former editor of La Raza newspaper in Los Angeles who covered Acosta during his trials defending activists. "He had his flaws, but we all did. He was also a crusader, picketing with us."

After his second marriage fell apart and sales of his books fell flat, Acosta went to Mazatlan, Mexico, and disappeared.

Santiago Vaquera-Vasquez, a writer and Spanish and Portuguese professor at the University of New Mexico, said Acosta's books grew important after his disappearance as scholars and students sought more literature about the Mexican-American experience.

"His outrage and crazy lifestyle in the cities served as a counter to other works which were romantic and more rural," said Vaquera-Vasquez, who uses Acosta's work in his courses.

Vaquera-Vasquez said Acosta's books are even more relevant today because they cover the world of activism in a racist society — something many students can recognize. Vaquera-Vasquez said the "in-your-face" advocacy of Acosta helped give rise to Mexican-American cartoonists like Lalo Alcaraz and others.

The documentary airs on most PBS stations March 23.

  • Monday, Mar. 19, 2018
"Sex and the City" star Cynthia Nixon running for governor
In this Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, file photo, Actress Cynthia Nixon poses for the photographers during a photo call for the film 'A Quiet Passion' at the 2016 Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin, Germany. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

Former "Sex and the City" star Cynthia Nixon is running for New York governor.

After flirting with a run for months, Nixon said on Twitter Monday that she will challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York's Democratic primary in September.

It sets up an intriguing race pitting an openly gay liberal activist against a two-term incumbent with a $30 million war chest and possible presidential ambitions.

Her campaign website said Nixon won't accept any corporate contributions and will limit contributions from any individual or organization to $65,100 for the election cycle.

"We want our government to work again. On health care, ending massive incarceration, fixing our broken subway," Nixon said in a video announcing her candidacy . "We are sick of politicians who care more about headlines and power than they do about us."

Nixon has her work cut out for her. A Siena College poll released Monday showed Cuomo leading her by 66 percent to 19 percent among registered Democrats, and by a similar margin among self-identified liberals. Nixon did a little better among younger and upstate Democrats, but didn't have more than a quarter of either group.

The poll of 772 registered voters was conducted March 11-16. The margin of error is plus-minus 4 percentage points.

Nixon has in recent months given speeches and interviews calling on Democrats nationally to run "bluer" in 2018 and carve out a strong, progressive liberal identity rather than being merely "the anti-Trump party."

It's a left-flank strategy that has had success against Cuomo in the past — nearly unknown liberal activist and law professor Zephyr Teachout garnered a surprising 34 percent of the vote in the 2014 Democratic primary.

"It could be a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party in some sense," said Baruch College political scientist Douglas Muzzio.

Nixon, a 51-year-old Manhattan mother of three, is a longtime advocate for fairness in public school funding and fervent supporter of Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has frequently clashed with Cuomo on a range of issues. Her video shows her with her young son Max as she talks about being a proud public school parent.

Last month, at the annual New York gala of Human Rights Campaign, which has endorsed Cuomo, she took a backhanded stab at the governor's record: "For all the pride that we take here in being such a blue state, New York has the single worst income inequality of any state in the country."

The 60-year-old Cuomo had no immediate comment on Nixon's candidacy. But recently, he mocked the celebrity status the Grammy, Emmy and Tony winner could bring to the race.

"Normally name recognition is relevant when it has some connection to the endeavor," Cuomo told reporters earlier this month. "If it was just about name recognition, then I'm hoping that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and Billy Joel don't get into the race."

While Nixon has strong political connections and name recognition in the city that was the backdrop for her Emmy Award-winning role as lawyer Miranda Hobbes in the HBO comedy "Sex and the City," her star power among upstate voters is less certain.

Jefrey Pollock, pollster and political adviser to Cuomo and other prominent Democrats, said that celebrity isn't likely to trump governing experience in the voting booth.

"Over and over in our research, Democratic primary voters say they're not looking for an outsider because they look to Washington, D.C., and see what the outsider has meant to this country," Pollock said.

The first task for Nixon, Muzzio said, is to launch a listening and talking tour.

"She can't be the celebrity glamour girl," he said. "She's got to get out there and get exposure upstate."

Nixon won't be the only celebrity candidate on the New York ballot. Former "Law and Order: SVU" actress Diane Neal is running for Congress as an independent in a Hudson Valley district.